Interviews with Structural Engineers can be a very illuminating way to understand what being a structural engineer is like in practice. The interviewer can ask the questions that get right to the point. An interview can also be quite wide-ranging even if it is concise. Covering the different aspects of structural engineering from education to career progression, from stories about structural engineering to recommendations of ways to learn more. There’s also the possibility of reading interviews with structural engineers at different grades, from different countries or with different specialisms. One interview may give one angle on structural engineering while another interview shows it in a completely different light.
I wanted to share with you a range of such structural engineering interviews to give you a flavour and an overview of the profession. In time I hope to interview some structural engineers directly and would welcome good suggestions in the comments.
Anna Bergmanwas a structural engineer in Sweden before moving to the UK. She enjoys the variety of the profession where each project is different. For instance she has been enjoying growing her skills in masonry and in-situ concrete design as these were not materials that were widely used in Sweden.
Ummer Daraztransferred from working in banking to become a structural engineer which he found combined his love of art and mathematics. He has worked on a variety of projects including his personal favourite the Portsoken Pavilion.
Danielle McGrelliswas named one of the top 50 female engineers in the UK. She studied French, history and mathematics at A-level and did a work placement with an engineering firm. Since graduating from University she worked on high profile projects such as the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi Airport. She spends a lot of her time as an engineer computer modelling using complex mathematical calculations and algorithms.
Christina Varnava is a structural engineer who designs bridges and flood prevention. She was fascinated by structural engineering from a young age and enjoyed maths, physics and solving practical problems. She studied engineering at university and has now been working for five years towards becoming a chartered engineer. She likes engineering because “you never get the same challenge twice – you never get bored!”
If history is anything to go by, then if you want to be a President you should first train as a lawyer or in the military or as a farmer (in that order). In fact of the former professions of US Presidents there have only been four that didn’t come from any of those backgrounds.
Warren Harding was a newspaper editor, Lyndon B Johnson was a teacher and Ronald Reagan was an Actor and then one of them was an engineer! But which one was it?
Well it isn’t Obama, although he’s very keen to inspire more engineers. The Bush’s had both been pilots, Clinton a lawyer, Carter a peanut farmer, Kennedy had been in the navy. So maybe things associated with them might provide a clue? Theodore Roosevelt famously had a stuffed toy named after him. Richard Nixon had a Simpson’s character named after him (his middle was Milhous). And then there was the President who’s name was given to a dam.
That’s right it’s Herbert Hoover! Who went from a career as a mining engineer before he entered politics and went on to be the 31st President of the United States, the most powerful person in the world. And this is what he had to say when he was reminiscing about his former career*:
“It is a great profession. There is the fascination of watching a figment of the imagination emerge through the aid of science to a plan on paper. Then it moves to realisation in stone or metal or energy. Then it brings jobs and homes to people. Then it elevates the standards of living and adds to the comforts of life. That is the engineer’s high privilege.
The great liability of the engineer compared to those of other professions is that his works are out in the open where all can see them. His acts, step by step, are in hard substance. He cannot bury his mistakes in the grave like doctors. He cannot argue them into thin air or blame the judge like the lawyers. He cannot, like the architects, cover his failures with trees and vines. He cannot, like the politicians, screen his shortcomings by blaming his opponents and hope that people will forget. The engineer simply cannot deny that he did it. If his works do not work, he is damned. That is the phantasmagoria that haunts his nights and dogs his days. He comes from the job at the end of the day resolved to calculate it again. He wakes in the night in a cold sweat and puts something on paper that looks silly in the morning. All day he shivers at the thought of the bugs which will inevitable appear to jolt its smooth consummation.”
In my view, there isn’t enough about engineering in popular culture*. I mean where are the musicals about engineering? Or the daytime TV shows about engineers who solve crime?
John Oliver has taken one step in the right direction with this spoof trailer about an engineering film called Infrastructure. Obviously it’s poking fun, but still a pretty good description of one aspect of engineering – making sure nothing bad happens.